Celtics 114, Wolves 98: Dearly Departed

Last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics played a game with the knowledge that one of their respective teammates wouldn’t be there anymore. Players often remind us that the NBA “is a business”, but even with that in mind, NBA players are still people. When personalities as bright and fun as Ronnie Turiaf and Corey Brewer permanently exit your locker room, you’re going to think about it when you’re playing, at least right away.

Oh, right, the Celtics lost a pretty good guy, too. On top of that, the pieces they got in return weren’t yet available to play, so they had to roll with a sans-Rajon Rondo lineup, something they’re fairly familiar with. To the Celtics’ credit, they played as though nothing had changed, and didn’t seem as though the loss of Rondo was going to haunt them in any way on a personal level.

Saying the loss of Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf caused the Timberwolves to lose last night’s game would be silly. The Celtics won by killing the Timberwolves inside, capitalizing on second-chance points, and hitting the wide open (often corner) 3-pointers the Wolves would freely give them. Andrew Wiggins had one of his worst games so his young career, and Thad Young’s struggles continued.

So no, it’s fair to say the Wolves lost this game all by themselves. But it’s hard for me to imagine that the news of the Brewer/Turiaf trade didn’t have an effect on the team psyche, at least a little bit. Seeing the way both guys carried themselves in the locker room, the conversations they’d start, the jokes they’d crack; they kept the locker room loose, no matter how bad the score may have ended up on a particular night.

To be fair, a few Wolves didn’t seem phased by the trade, both of whom may actually have directly benefited from it. Shabazz Muhammad kept up his scoring binge, having his best all-around game with a 25-5-5 line. He played the fast break very well, and made some nice passes in situations I was positive he’d try to force a shot inside. Also, Chase Budinger seemed to wake up, at least temporarily. He had his first positive output of the season, finally playing like he did back in the preseason/training camp, shooting 8/12 for 19 points.

Past that, it was tough to find anything good from tonight. Against a rebuilding team like Boston, the Wolves should play better. They didn’t do that. It was for a long list of reasons, and losing Brewer and Turiaf was probably one of them. But it’s still a basketball game, and they’re still professional basketball players.

They’ll have another chance to get back in the win column on Sunday against the Indiana Pacers. While Corey and Ronny will still be on their minds, these guys have seen trades happen before, and should be able to move on quickly. It’s fair to point at a trade for some shaky play the game of the deal. After that, it’s all basketball.

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  1. The only downside to Bazzy’s scoring surge is that Wiggins seems all too willing to take a back seat. That and Flip’s offense seems to have Wiggins running isolation plays, forcing him to take difficult shots, whereas Bazzy is like a dog that knows exactly where the table scraps are likely to fall off the table, and thus positions himself accordingly. Having both of these young players on the floor should not be mutually exclusive.

  2. It’s not clear what they’re trying to do defensively. They give up position easily and don’t make plays on the ball. Strategically, I understand the switching, but that only works with sound technique. With their athleticism, they could be much more aggressive about denying perimeter passes instead of sitting back and providing little resistance. There’s no reason they couldn’t play as hard and as physically as the Sixers do. I never expected the team to be this bad defensively; last season, they truly had mediocre athletes yet still allowed a lower eFG% and got more rebounds.

  3. Tim and gjk, I like what you guys are saying. This team is a walking excuse, and while you guys are aware of all the adversity they’ve faced and tempered your expectations, you refuse to let the Wolves be a team that is held to no standards. I agree. The fans deserve better than what they’ve got so far. Of course they deserve better luck with injuries and so fourth, but there is something else missing that we deserve even from these depleted, young, overmatched guys. Not getting blown out by newly Rondo-less Boston is an example of what we deserve as fans, and should expect. There have been too many games like this–games we have no excuse to not compete in. If I sound impatient it is because I’ve been a Wolves fan for a while…

    Side note: Even though we didn’t compete like we should have, one thing that stood out for me is how little we seemed to miss Brewer (good points on us missing him emotionally and in the locker room, though). Nothing he’d been bringing to the table would have helped all that much in this game. In stepping up, Budinger and Muhammad showed potential and to be more of what we need than what Brewer was for this team, as it is now. His defense can hopefully be replaced by the young guys and Rubio when he comes back in time. And we might actually be better giving his minutes to guys who can make shots with some consistency.

  4. This team should be embarrassed and angry with their defensive results. Defense is effort and focus.The Wolves don’t have it. With the athlete’s this team has, every shot should be contested. Stick with your man and be embarrassed if he scores on you. Come on Wolves, grow a pair!